Driving up the mountain road in the snow covered landscape, our hearts are filled with anticipation. When the road makes a sharp right there it is: the heavenly Ferme du Ciel. English owners Andrew and Su Lyell fell in love with a 17th-century cow byre in the French mountain village of Samoëns and turned it into their dream, a luxurious chalet. We are welcomed by assistant Kate and when she finds out we are here for a few days to unwind, she makes us a list with suggestions. The next days are filled with wonderful winter hikes, warming up by the fireplace, skiing in Le Grand Massive, food shopping in the village of Samoëns for local bread and French cheese, discovering the local Savoyarde restaurants and relaxed evenings catching up on some reading. After four days of winter bliss we felt completely revived.
What we loved: the open plan living area, the homelike atmosphere and the large windows with views over the mountains.
The rooms: 5 spacious bedrooms and 1 family suite.
Location: just outside the picturesque mountain village Samoëns in the Haute-Savoie.
Play outdoor: continue on the mountain road to Ferme du Ciel and you will end up on Col de Joux Plane, the mountain pass between Samoëns and Morzine. In the winter it is closed for cars, but up here there are some nice walking circuits, between 1 and 8,5 kilometre long. When there’s enough snow, Samoëns is connected by a gondola to Flaine and Le Grand Massif (266 kilometres slopes) for some excellent skiing and snowboarding. Otherwise, drive around the mountain to Flaine (about 1 hr). Hiking or snowshoeing in Sixt Fer à Cheval, a valley surrounded by mountaintops.
More activities: drive a snowmobile, go dog sledging or sightseeing by helicopter, try cross country skiing.
Unwind: sooth your sore muscles in the small in-house sauna, or relax in the outdoor whirlpool under the stars.
Food: our absolute favourite is 8M des Monts, by a couple that puts endless love in their beautiful presented dishes. We also enjoyed the fusion kitchen of Le Monde a l’Envers and the traditional Savoyarde restaurant Le Serac.
How to get there: the airport of Geneva is only a one hour drive from Ferme du Ciel. Owner Andrew can pick you up, or you can rent your own car.
Car rental from Geneva Airport: the airport is located on the border between France and Switzerland and has a French and Swiss entrance. We found that hiring a car at the French side (tucked away at a corner of the airport) was more affordable than hiring a similar vehicle at the Swiss side. The downside is that the French seem to have shorter opening hours and while winter equipment is often standard on the Swiss side during the season (winter tyres on the car and snow chains in the boot), this is not the case for the French rental companies. When driving through Switzerland you will need a toll vignette (a sticker), usually supplied by Swiss car rental companies, but not by their French counterparts. Best to check and double check before you make reservations.
© Words and photographs by Linda van de Pavoordt, unless mentioned otherwise. Published January 28th, 2016.
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